Playa Gigante, Nicaragua

Photo: Aqua Nicaragua Wellness Resort
Photo: Aqua Nicaragua Wellness Resort

Does the term “eco-resort” make you cringe? Is a resort automatically crossed off your list of vacation possibilities when you hear the phrase? Unfortunately, many conservation-minded hotels have been written off as cheap and crunchy. Central America’s largest country, Nicaragua, is trying to change that impression. Sustainable and local are the new buzzwords. And creating a luxurious haven for guests is just as important as protecting the beautiful surroundings. Maybe it’s time to consider eco-resorts again.

One of the first places to consider in Nicaragua: Aqua Wellness Resort. Located on the Southern Pacific Coast, the resort can barely be seen from its private beach, Redonda Bay. Elevated villas are hidden among the treetops. Made of sustainable hardwoods and filled with local artisan furniture, the villas have wraparound decks, infinity plunge pools, and teak rain showers. Add the sound of crashing waves, views of the turquoise water, and cooling breezes. Plus a wine chiller. Aqua is far from crunchy.

Photo: Aqua Nicaragua Wellness Resort
Photo: Aqua Nicaragua Wellness Resort

Wake up to the sound of howler monkeys chattering in the distance. A toucan flies by as you rub the sleep from your eyes on the deck. Follow wooden bridges and lava stone pathways down to the oceanside yoga platform. Don’t worry about how you look attempting the bridge pose for the first time. Everyone is focused on their own breathing. Or the horseshoe-shaped beach in front of them. Grab a glass of freshly squeezed dragon fruit juice. Head to the spa for an after yoga massage and a cacao exfoliation. Then finally sip a cup of Nicaraguan coffee.

Spend the afternoon snorkeling in the shallow bay. Green and leatherback sea turtles have arrived to nest. Give paddle boarding a try. Your core is strong from the morning’s yoga session. Go to Playa Colorado or Playa Amarillo to surf. The exposed beaches have better waves. Hike Giant’s Foot. The views are worth the easy one-hour climb. Take a nap under a palapa. Hermit crabs rush away when you start to stir. And attempt to spear a fish for dinner. It’s harder than it looks. So when you come up empty-handed, follow the dirt road into town. Playa Gigante is a rustic fishing village. You’ll find pigs and low-key surfers wandering the streets. Stop at Chele Palmado’s for happy hour. If the cold beer and the fish tacos don’t keep you here the rest of the evening, move on to Pili’s Kitchen for spicy garlic shrimp pasta and a gorgeous sunset.

Return to Aqua for a moonlight swim among bioluminescent algae. Nutrient-enriched seawater creates the bright blue glow. And thanks to Aqua’s conservation programs, you get to enjoy this cool experience. It’s a good thing you didn’t rule out eco-resorts this time.

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